Little is more distressing to babies and parents alike than an attack of colic.
What is a crying colicky baby?
Contrary to some beliefs, colic is not a specific illness. It originates from the Greek word for the colon and broadly speaking, it means “abdominal pain”.
That means it can arise from any one of numerous conditions, just a few of which might include:
- a food reaction in the baby’s stomach/abdomen;
- an infection;
In most cases, it is a transitory condition that is not, in itself, serious. In fact, it can be very difficult for doctors to specifically allocate a cause at a given time – at least in the absence of other symptoms or tests.
Some doctors suggest that colic can also be attributable to the baby’s intestines growing and adapting to new foodstuffs or simply a baby not getting the attention they think they deserve leading to stress that affects their intestines.
Even if most colic is not caused by serious conditions, the pain and distress it generates for a baby should not be underestimated.
Most babies seem to start having colic attacks at around 2 months and often cease having them altogether within another 2-3 months. Attacks may continue into the toddler years and where they do so, further medical investigation is typically advisable.
Medications and treatment for Crying Colicky Babies
Never give a baby medication or homoeopathic remedies unless you have checked them in advance with a medical professional, such as your doctor or pharmacist.
Many forms of baby/toddler medication may be of only limited pain relief help in cases of colic. Instead, you might wish to try:
- sitting (or holding) your baby upright rather than laying them down;
- cuddle them in that position and be reassuring – this may be all that’s required in cases where the cause is stress rather than physical;
- gently tapping their back while upright, to ‘burp’ them, thereby relieving any trapped gas;
- placing your warm hand gently on their tummy/abdomen to transfer heat – this may reduce painful tension in muscles;
- keep their fluid levels up though don’t force them to take anything. If feeding time is approaching and they’re on solids, consider a delay and avoid any foods that are ‘unusual’ in their terms.
When to consult a doctor
When dealing with a crying colicky baby, even if in the majority of cases the underlying cause is likely to be non-serious, you can’t be sure of that. Sometimes a ‘routine’ colic can disguise a more serious or even life-threatening underlying condition.
Please remember that this is not qualified medical advice! However, if you experience any of the following, you should consult a doctor or qualified medical professional without delay:
- a sudden severe bout of colic with your baby in clear distress and where there is no prior history of such;
- colic that has been clearly very distressing for your baby for more than a short period of time (each parent may need to decide how long this is based on their history with their baby and a doctor’s advice, as time advice varies by doctor and health service guidelines);
- pain accompanied by a swelling in the stomach or abdomen;
- colic that coincides with blood in the faeces or urine. Another urgent warning symptom would be where they have stopped defecating and/or urinating;
- an attack that is accompanied by a fever (say 38C or over);
- regular colic instances and your baby is not gaining weight in line with normal projections;
- colic coinciding with skin rashes and eruptions;
- abdominal pain which appears to be interfering with your baby’s normal breathing rhythms.
Colic is rarely serious but it is worth keeping an eye on and getting a doctor to confirm the diagnosis rather than make assumptions.